Johnson’s legacy haunts Sunak as Met ‘considering’ Partygate video


Rishi Sunak’s attempts to move on from the legacy of Boris Johnson’s chaotic premiership have suffered a further setback as police announced they were “considering” fresh Partygate video footage of an event during lockdown at Conservative headquarters.

The video, which was obtained by the Mirror newspaper, appears to show Conservative party staff drinking alcohol and dancing on 14 December 2020 at a gathering held by the campaign team of the unsuccessful London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey, who has since been given a peerage in Johnson’s resignation honours list.

The levelling up secretary, Michael Gove, apologised for the footage, describing the actions of those involved as “terrible” and “indefensible”, but said it would not be right for him to say whether the Metropolitan police should reopen it investigation into the lockdown-breaking event.

However, a group representing the families of people who died of Covid-19 has expressed its disgust at video, urging the force to “absolutely reinvestigate” the incident.

In the video, Conservative officials Jack Smith and Malin Bogue appear to dance past a sign saying “Please keep your distance” before colliding with a table full of buffet food. In the background, someone can be heard saying: “As long as we don’t stream that we’re like, bending the rules.”

Last year, the Met decided to take no action over the gathering, saying that a much-published photograph that showed Bailey among a number of revellers was not enough evidence to “disprove the version of events provided by attendees”.

But on Sunday, a Scotland Yard spokesperson, said: “We are aware of the footage and are considering it.”

Johnson, his wife, Carrie, and Sunak received fixed penalty notices last year for breaching Covid laws.

Responding to footage of the party at Tory HQ, Matt Fowler, a co-founder of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families For Justice Campaign whose father, Ian, died in April 2020, said: “It’s pretty shocking to see this especially on Father’s Day.” He supported fresh police inquiries and also called for those involved to be stripped of recent honours.

“It absolutely should be investigated again, but you’ve got to wonder how much confidence to have in that investigation. This this hasn’t come out until now, and that’s definitely something to to be worried about. Either the first investigation wasn’t good enough or for whatever reason the results were suppressed, which is just wrong,” Fowler added.

Fowler said dozens of members of bereaved relatives had taken to the campaign’s WhatsApp group to express their anger and frustration at the video. “They are all hurt by this,” he said.

Susie Crozier-Flintham, whose father, Howard, died of Covid in March 2020, messaged the group to say: “They know the bereaved relive our trauma every time something comes out, and this is beginning to feel like deliberate triggering.”

At least 24 people were reported to be at the party including Bailey, although he left before the video was taken.

At the time of the event, indoor socialising was banned under tier 2 restrictions. On the day the party is understood to have taken place, the then health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced London would enter tier 3 restrictions in order to contain a surging number of Covid infections.

Ben Mallet, who was awarded an OBE in Johnson’s list and was Bailey’s campaign director, appears in the video wearing festive braces and a blue tie. Mallet is running the campaign for Mozammel Hossain, who is on the shortlist to be the Tory candidate at next year’s London mayoral election.

As well as calling for Mallet and Bailey to lose their honours, Fowler has urged Hossain to pull out of the mayoral race.

Conservative campaign headquarters, said “formal disciplinary action” was taken against four staff members, who were seconded to Bailey’s mayoral campaign, over the “unauthorised” event.

Samuel Kasumu, a former London mayoral hopeful who previously worked as an adviser at No 10 during Johnson’s leadership, said seeing evidence of lockdown parties was one of the reasons he quit his role in April 2021.

The deputy Labour leader, Angela Rayner, said: “Revellers at this lockdown Tory booze-up openly mocked the rules the British people followed. The Tories think it’s one rule for them and one rule for everyone else.

“Instead of forcing them to face the consequences, Rishi Sunak has caved into Boris Johnson’s demands and chosen to reward them with honours. It’s a sickening insult.”

After Gove’s apology, the Liberal Democrats said it was “too little too late”. A spokesperson for the party said: “It will bring cold comfort to the millions of people who stuck by the rules in the darkest days of the pandemic … Those honours should all be removed, the government can do that.”

The Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, said Sunak should be withdrawing Johnson’s entire honours list, and urged the prime minister to stop being “weak”.

Sarwar told Sky News’ Sunday with Sophy Ridge programme: “I think that video is disgusting, it’s shameful, it’s going to anger people right across the country and it just feels like the Conservative party wants us to relive that trauma day after day, week after week, and frankly I think people are getting disgusted by it.

Gove said Bailey and Mallet should be able to keep the honours they were handed by Johnson.

“The decision to confer honours on people was one that was made by Boris Johnson as an outgoing prime minister. Outgoing prime ministers have that right. Whether or not they should is a matter of legitimate public debate, but they do at the moment,” Gove added.

A spokesperson for Bailey said: “This is an old story. We repeatedly apologised for this event at the time. It was subject to a nearly year-long police investigation. The matter is closed.”